With my First 27 SE GEKKO now sold I do enjoy having a nicely decent amount of money on my bank account. Since inflation hits hard and almost everybody is seeking haven investing in something, I am now in the same situation of coming up with a solution here. Well, I don´t have any knowledge nor any trust at all in stocks, so that´s a no go. Gold, precious metals and other commodities are way out of reach and prices inflated since years and the only thing I really know stuff about is … boats. So, here we go – which boat to choose?
As a boat dealer for Groupe Beneteau it may seem obvious. I am literally sitting “at the source” and I do have the insight. I must day that there are some boats I really fancy. But there are also boats not being produced by Beneteau which I really like and would love to get a hold of: Aluminium yachts are still my all-time faves but for this, selling GEKKO didn´t really accumulate the right budget. Also, maybe a catamaran (and start a life on it?) would be an interesting though experiment, yet – for now at least – unfeasible. So, what to do now? That´s a tough one …
A huge decision to be made
Being in Cannes last month I spent much time looking at a variety of interesting boats, you might have read some of the seven articles produced in the aftermath of the show. But there was one particular boat that really got me drawn to it. Most of the free time before and even after the show I witnessed myself sitting on the new First 36 by Beneteau, built by Seascape. Something got me here … and I must say, spending these hours and hours just sitting, trying, contemplating, watching, feeling and just getting into the F36-vibes did the trick. Could this be my new boat?
Honestly, there didn´t have been an awful lot of boats in the focus. At first I thought an Oceanis 30.1 might be it: She is small enough to not drain my account too much yet she offers all cruising amenities needed. I sailed a lot on her and I like this small, quick boat quite much. She would be awesome in the Baltic. But why so small? For “just some” extra budget the all-new Marc Lombard-designed Oceanis 34.1 would also be a great boat to own. Yet, I like it quick. So, I seriously thought about acquiring the much adored MAT 10.70, which I still consider a great, great boat. But with MAT some other implications arise, many have nothing to do with the boat itself. And so, I arrive at the First 36, no matter what I do, I found myself standing at her stern and watching her. Watching her as an owner-in-being.
A POV-tour of the First 36
Let´s do another tour of the First 36. This time from my point of view, just as in YouTube: POV-videos are a thing here apparently and so I want to take you with me on a journey into my head, seeing the boat through my eyes just as I did in early September at the pontoons of Cannes Yachting Festival 2022 where hull number #6 freshly out of the yard in Slovenia was moored.
The steering wheel position is just as great. To starboard side where the engine lever is located, the yard had fixed a stainless steel grab handle and the small 7 inch plotter to a simple carbon-panel. Everything is held in place by hose clamps. This is very effective yet aesthetically questionable. I think they could come up with something more beautiful or nice to look at. For new, it does it´s job but I guess this won´t be the end of development here.
Steppin onto the very much aft side board I watch over the cockpit: The First 36 is much bigger than you would her expect to be indeed! I have written about the real life size in another article where I´ve made a shot showing the First 27 next to her – this is a huge difference! The cockpit is huge as well. Working winches in the front, Jib winches on the coamings and Gennaker winches on the back. The layout is pretty racy and will fit both crewed racing and single- or double-handed racing. But that´s not just racing here …
Proper cruising cockpit
One of the things I want to have in my new boat, next to it being fast, is an increase in cruising comforts. This is a learning of my #microcruising experiment with GEKKO. I was able to achieve quite some nice comfort-level in this boat but, well, sitting on a real bench, reclining on it and let go of one´s feet instead of squatting on the cockpit´s floor is really a treat for sure! I loved it so much!
The First 36 comes with quite a nice option: Cockpit bench extensions which lengthen the seats I the cockpit by more than a half of the seat´s length. With these you can really stretch out and call it a day. But the cushions on, open a can of cold beer and enjoy the sunset after a nice day of sailing. Moreover, these extensions can be opened by a hatch and offer some decent amount of stowage.
The boxes are constructed to take on most of the lines used for the running rigging – sheet mumble a as well a thing of the past in this boat. I guess on a cruising week you can store fenders, said cushions and other stuff in here, which is great. When seriously racing, you will need more free space in the cockpit: The boxes are disassembled with two simple hinges and can be stored under deck or left on the shore. The Jib-sheeters will enjoy an ergonomically perfect working space.
So that´s really cool thing in the cockpit of the First 36 and I can assure you, I´ve spent many, many mornings here on the boat, the show still 2 hours away from opening to the public. Having a fresh cup of coffee, I could perfectly envision myself in here. Just one detail I am not so sure about as of now: Cockpit table, yes or no? The boat show in Cannes did not have a table and I must say I didn´t really miss it. The boat I´ve seen back in Germany had one. Well, I´m not sure about taking it or not.
Speaking of stowage …
Although I am trying not to mess up in my own boats by stuffing them with all sorts of stuff, I will need at least some stowage. In the First 36 there is a huge lazarette just aft of the mainsheet traveller. This lazarette is accessible via a wide big hatch and when standing down inside it´s a 90 centimeters deep room, I´d say.
Down there it is not solely thought to be used as stowage, of course: Nice maintenance access to the rudder-shafts, the auto-pilot and cockpit drainage. Too much stuff that flies around, especially when sailing heeled, is nothing you want to have here, but I guess with a clever system of boxes, maybe, you can set up a nice place of “wet” storage down here.
Everything is well within reach, especially rudder quadrants, rudder lines and the whole steering mechanics, which will be of importance altogether especially in a boat like the 36. You may already know from my article about the First 36 production in Slovenia at Seascape, that this boat is completely vacuum infused and looking at these B-sides gives really a nice impression of the high quality and working standards applied there to make this boat. Trust building.
Single handed sailing made easy
I envision myself sailing this boat mostly in single hand mode. Hence, everything must be in the right place, reachable and workable fast and easy. Sam Manuard wouldn´t be what he is, the “Wunderkind” of fast boat-making, if the running rigging and the positioning of all clamps wouldn´t be as ergonomic and logical as on his IMOCA 60-behemoths.
I instantly felt at home, the “piano” at the entryway feels quite familiar to the one on the First 27 SE and except that on the First 36 there are no lead cars and no Genoa sheets-tracks but the 3D-system done by two smaller lines working an loopeye. I principally know how to work these and I see the immense advantage of having the possibility to fine-tune the Jib and Genoa in three dimensions, but this is yet to be practiced. Other than that, the running rigging feels familiar.
Proceeding to the bow sprit that´s a different game on the First 36. First of all, the bow sprit is not retractable any more, which on the one hand saves time but also makes the boat a bit less easily manoeuverable as the hull is prolonged one meter by the fixed bow sprit. Attached I find the 2:1 halyard for Gennaker or Code 0 light wind sails, a blast I am absolutely looking forward to.
A big boat indeed!
Standing there and looking back over the whole length of 11 meters makes me shiver: She is a big boat indeed! 36 feet sounds quite small but her wide beam of 3.80 meters make her appear much “heavier”. Well, heavy is a word seldom used on the First 36: With barely 4.800 kilograms she is a lightweight boat in her class. The Dehler 38 SQ, just 30 centimeters longer, weighs in 7.5 tons, which is a world.
Size matters and in the end this is what my kids and my partner told me our precious beloved GEKKO couldn´t naturally deliver with her 8 meters length. Especially on longer trips you simply need the convenience of an own dedicated cabin, a proper bathroom (later more on that) and the stability of the platform in heavier weather or bigger waves. That was a problem indeed on the small boat. Nt so with the First 36 – especially down below.
And what a blast she is! Going below is always such a great moment. Somehow the designers at Seascape – with the help of Gigo Design – have come up with a fresh, light-hearted, bright concept for the First 36´s interior yet without apparently compromising the boat´s spectacular lightweight properties. I went down multiple times and with every single time going down those three stairs the boat became more and more … home … to me.
My girlfriend will love her
You may have read the entry of my last big cruising trip in the Baltic Sea with my girlfriend. With all the great moments we had the pleasure to share underway, we have also tried our best to counter the shortages of GEKKO. For example, for three days we´ve had to stay in the Danish port of Hasle because of strong winds and high waves in the Baltic. It was raining one complete day and so no other thing to do than just stay below and try to make the best out of it.
Such days come and go all the time. Weather can change and it can be better to stay in port, be tied up safely and kill time. Every inch of length and width, every square meter of space, every cubic meter of volume counts. In the First 36 the increase of perceived comfort down below is way beyond the First 27 SE. At the dining table – foldable to each side of the central walkway – four persons could sit and have a meal. Or have their laptops open for a busy day in the internet.
The boat has a lot of gelcoat/Top Coat surface which is part of the inner shell. Both the chart table/nav station as well as the central pillar that houses the fridge are molded as one part of the inner hull and so strengthening the structure. The boat is very light suffused as there are smaller hull windows (a nod to the F27 SE) and big windows in the coach roof as well as three skylights. This makes the perceived room inside so much bigger and sets the First 36 apart from other boats of her size.
Speaking of the fridge: The central position of it is ingenious: Coming down or going up it´s a last (or first) solid grab handle in bad weather. It can also work as a backrest for crew when cooking in heavy conditions or somebody talking to the navigator at the table. The fridge may be a bit off in terms of accessibility: It is very deep yet slim. Well, coming from a boat without a fridge at all, this is acceptable for me I´d say.
Something for the Captain
Have I showed you the Captain´s place? I absolutely love it! I remember working so hard in my brain to come up with a perfect chart table for my first boat, the King´s Cruiser 33 OLIVIA. I envisioned myself in this place countless times, dreamed myself sailing away, sitting here studying charts, doing the logbook or just enjoying my morning coffee. Well, now I will get a dedicated nav station that is exemplary!
In most boats, cruisers most notably, the nav station and chart table are reduced to silly small folding tables crunched and re-positioned to ridiculously weir positions. Some are placed far away at the front bulkhead, some are positioned back-forward facing aft. For others you must take out a part of the cushions. And in some boats, the chart tables have disappeared at all for good. Which is okay for a holiday boat and charter-vessel, but fancy having a real full-fledged nav station.
Sitting there I can say the chart table is definitely well-sized. Even if traditional paper charts are disappearing with more and more publishers abandoning production, nevertheless, there will always be the need to do some paperworks. Even if done on a computer. The work top surface is folding up revealing some stowage underneath for the “chart of the day” or licenses. There is stowage to the right underneath the main panel and even underneath the footrest is a small repository. It all felt quite nicely proportioned and will suit me great.
The main switch board is brand new and of a bit higher quality than the ones used on the ordinary sailing boats of our range. Although no touchpad-bulls***t, the feel and haptics is absolutely fantastic. You know that starting 2022 all boats delivered by Beneteau, Firsts/Seascapes included, will feature Seanapps? This is a derivate of the Sentinel-service device used in Seascape boats before. All of the data being generated by the ship´s sensors – most of them part of the switches of the board – will be processed to an app. I guess I´ll produce a dedicated article on this soon too. Back to the boat then …
I love sailing at night as you may know and this will be cool on the First 36 too as we not only have real cabins with real solid doors, protecting the sleep of my fellow future crew members, but we will also have redlight for the night shifts, something my previous boat was missing too. It´s thise simple things which make sailing so cool. And she will be a cool boat for sure!
There´s always a downside …
Well, yeah, there it is: The “if”. Every boat is a compromise. There is no such thing as the perfect boat. It´s always a struggle between performance, comfort and budget. Pull on one side, taking it away from the other. The blanket covers only an area tat is so and so big – you cannot have everything. With the First 36 the blank spot on the mattress is definitely the bathroom. I know that the concept behind it with the folding sink and everything is fine and the idea may be great, but, in reality, the bathroom is t-i-n-y.
Really. It´s so narrow and tight that I have to press myself all the way up from my heel over butt to head onto the bulkhead to be able to close the door! Look at the pictures: The door will just pass in front of my toes to be closed. And I am not a big person, I just weigh in some 73 kilograms, my belly still in good shape. I know sailors who are bigger who have no chance whatsoever to get to take a dump here with closed door. No chance!
I don´t want to complain as again, I come from a boat where the toilet even smaller and where there is no chance to wash hands let alone get a decent wash whatsoever. Getting a shower on the First 27 SE means check the marina bathrooms or have the ice bucket challenge re-enacted in the cockpit outside. Can I live with this cramped bathroom? Yes, I do! I am slim and I will fit in here well. But I know that other will have problems accepting this tiny bathroom.
My kids will love her as well
Thinking of my family, there are my kids in the first place which I hope will love this new boat as well. They did have a very strong bond with GEKKO and telling them that I was about to sell the boat already was a big thing, tears and crying involved. I know that they loved more the idea of GEKKO being the enabler of adventures and family quality time and so they will for sure love the new boat as well.
With the cabin, the First 36 is a definitive step forward. The First 36 comes as a three cabin version in standard, no options possible. The fore cabin is vast, measured by the recent experience in GEKKO. There is standing height, a nice cabinet for clothing. The color choice is very light and no-frills. I liked the two big massive cupboards running all to the front – those reminded me of them two I was building into OLIVIA years ago. We will spend lots of comfy hours sleeping here, I am sure.
Ame goes for the aft cabins. Both are symmetrical and share the same measurements. It is easy as ABC in both of them to re-build one of them being a cargo hold for spare sails and stowage all around. I guess I will turn starboard aft cabin into the stowage and leave the port side cabin to the kids. Many times over I crawled into the bunks and checked the positions, for me as a 1.86 meters-person I cannot complain about berth size at all.
Decision made: This is my new boat!
So, with all these intensive hours spent inside and outside the new First 36 is my decision for anew boat now made? Is my search for the new sailing yacht at an end and a new chapter to be opened? Seems so, yes. I slept for many nights over my decision and talked to some closer friends. Now it´s done and I feel great: My new boat is finally ordered and signed up for. I am happy. The pleasant anticipation is growing, waiting time will be sufficient, but happy.
With the boat breaking all records and surpassing even the highest hopes of their makers, order situation is tight, waiting times immense. I was happy to being able to grab a pre-ordered slot which will make my boat arrive around June 2023. Showing boat #6 in Cannes and having #9 in production, Seascape is having “problems” to confirm new orders and deliver fast. Ordering a follow-up boat for my company, I was happy to receive boat #50something, ready early 2024. Another one ordered a day later was confirmed boat #70something, end of ´24.
That´s cool and crazy altogether: This boat gets so much praise in yachting magazines that people start to buy it right from the papers. It also “help” in some way that with all the economic fears (at least in Europe) of the middle class, many skippers refrain from investing in large yachts but get a smaller sized boat instead. The First 36 cashes in on this situation as well, it seems. For me, a long process of finding the perfect boat for myself seems to have culminated now in a decision – and is setting off a new chain of events which will definitely make 2023 stand out again, as a year packed with great sailing, big sailing adventures on the seas with my family and definitely so much new things to learn in my path to becoming a skillful skipper. All ahead flank and all sails up – First 36 is approaching!
More articles on the new First 36:
Andraz Mihelin on the legacy of the old Beneteau First 36.7
Seeing the First 36 for the first time
Visiting the Seascape-yard where the First 36 is made